Article 2007-10-17 New York City, NY

Springsteen Leaves Garden Audience Euphoric

The Madison Square Garden crowd joyfully sang along with Bruce Springsteen, not for the first or last time, on Wednesday night, as he reached the chorus of “Lonesome Day”: “It’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right, yeah.” That’s what the sound of the E Street Band always says, surging past every bit of disillusionment, loss, bewilderment and bitterness in the verses that the fans also know.

The sheer vitality of Mr. Springsteen, 58, belting an entire set of showstoppers straight from the gut and working the stage with his longtime band, provides all the hope the lyrics struggle to find. He’s as serious as any public figure alive, but he leaves audiences euphoric — a paradox that only grows more profound as he endures.

The music Mr. Springsteen makes with the E Street Band is grounded in the invincible sound of the pop he grew up on, particularly Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. It echoes the glory days of early rock ’n’ roll and an America that, after World War II and before Vietnam, was prosperous, confident and outwardly unified. His favorite chord progressions hark back to doo-wop; so do the saxophone tags of Clarence Clemons. There’s camaraderie in the music and among the musicians; the video screens above the stage would constantly intercut close-ups of the band members with their boss.

Even when those old chords carry lyrics that are far more troubled than girl-group love songs, and even when songs expand into anthems and suites (like “Thundercrack,” the encore Mr. Springsteen revived from his barnstorming live shows in the early 1970s), the music itself harbors no doubts, no second thoughts.

Yet for decades Mr. Springsteen has sung about a world that grinds down dreams and betrays the promise of America. More than six years into the second Bush administration, he is open about his political anger. He introduced “Magic,” the title song from his new album, with a comment about our “Orwellian times,” when “what’s true can be made to seem like a lie and what’s lying can be made to seem true.” Playing the jovial M.C. while the band vamped the intro to another song from the album, “Livin’ in the Future,” he started out naming “things that we love about America, like cheeseburgers, the Jersey Shore, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution,” and went on to warn about the “rolling back of civil rights” and “sleeping through all those changes that shouldn’t have happened here.”

Concentrating on songs from “Magic” (Columbia),the set built into something like an extended argument about the meaning of home. Except for “Brilliant Disguise,” a song about a troubled marriage that Mr. Springsteen sang in harmony with his wife, Patti Scialfa, there were few old hits before the encores. Instead Mr. Springsteen brought back songs like “Adam Raised a Cain” and “The Promised Land.”

Most of the arrangements followed their recorded versions, with a vivid exception: “Reason to Believe,” a quiet song from “Nebraska” remade as a harmonica-huffing John Lee Hooker-style blues boogie, tapping the blues for its alchemy of hard luck into pleasure.

The set’s homestretch was an emotional seesaw: a new ballad, “Devil’s Arcade,” for a soldier wounded in a desert war, and then “The Rising,” nothing less than an incantatory ritual of mourning and redemption. “Last to Die” and “Long Walk Home” contemplated the current morass.

Then “Badlands” vowed to push through it, with the colossal beat of Max Weinberg’s drums and Gary Tallent’s bass, the chime-topped keyboard chords of Roy Bittan and Danny Federici, Mr. Clemons’s saxophone, Soozie Tyrell’s fiddle and the triple-barreled guitar strumming of Nils Lofgren, Steve Van Zandt and Mr. Springsteen.

When the band paused, the audience sang at top volume: all burdens, all misgivings were cast off once again.

By Jon Pareles via The New York Times.

Bruce Springsteen’s New York Triumph

Bruce Springsteen has played Madison Square Garden nearly thirty times, but he says the two nights he played there with the E Street Band in mid-October rank among his greatest shows ever. “I don’t know if it’s the myth of the Garden, the heavyweight fight,” Springsteen says, “But there was definitely something going on in that audience. It was really alive – you could feel it onstage. Those shows were as good as any New York shows we’ve ever done.”

The heart of Springsteen’s current tour, which kicked off on October 2nd in Hartford, Connecticut, has been the politically charged songs from his new Magic, including killer versions of “Gypsy Biker” and the set-opening “Radio Nowhere.” “I don’t know any other group that goes out and does three-quarters of a new album during the first shows,” says guitarist Steve Van Zandt. “We’re the only ones, and we do it because the audience not only encourages it, they demand it.” The shows also feature classic tunes – “Born to Run,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “Badlands” – and gems from the catalog, including 1982’s “Reason to Believe” (reimagined as a ZZ Top-style blues number) and “Thudercrack,” a “Rosalita”-esque party track that the full band hadn’t performed since 1973.

The emotional high point of the second night at the Garden was a rare back-to-back performance of the final two cuts on Born to Run, “Meeting Across the River” and “Jungleland” – which Springsteen dedicated to the late actor Peter Boyle, after deciding to perform the combo on the fly midway through the set. “That was one of those things that happened almost by accident,” Springsteen says. “I spoke to Peter’s wife before the show. It would have been his birthday, and she told me how much he loved ‘Jungleland.’ And then Ed Norton was talking about ‘Meeting Across the River,’ how it’s like a little movie.” Saxophone player Clarence Clemons nailed his epic solo at the end, earning the loudest cheers of a very loud night. “I’ve written a lot of songs over the years,” Springsteen says. “But that last forty seconds of ‘Jungleland,’ that whole ‘poets down here’ verse – it blew up in a way that none of us expected.”

After wrapping up the American leg in Boston on November 19th, the band heads to Europe until the end of the year. No further U.S. dates have been announced, but Van Zandt says the tour is just getting started. “This first ten weeks is really ‘Hello, we have a new record out,’ ” he says. “Then we’ll be hitting everywhere starting in the spring for real.” An extended New York run of shows is all but guaranteed next year, but Springsteen will have a hard time topping the Garden shows. “I’ve been doing this a long time,” he says. “But you can still wake up stunned the next morning and think, ‘Did someone hit me over the head with a baseball bat around midnight last night?’ ”

By Andy Greene via Rolling Stone.
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